Disgruntled forward could be the future star the Cavaliers should trade for

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks and Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks and Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Cleveland Cavaliers, having righted the ship this season in the wake of key injuries, appear to be on track to make the playoff field, be that via securing a Top-6 seed or winning in the Play-In Tournament. ESPN's BPI stat gives the Cavs a 97.4 percent chance of making the playoffs this season.

That makes it unlikely that Cleveland will find another core player with their first-round pick this year; difference-makers can be found with picks in the second-half of the round, of course, but the odds are significantly reduced. When you add in that the Cavs do not control each of their five first-round picks following this year, having sent them to the Utah Jazz in the Donovan Mitchell trade, it is exceedingly unlikely that they will find a significant upgrade in the draft in the coming years.

Free agency is also largely out. The Cavs will be able to add players on the margins with the exceptions available to them, but barring some massive shake-up they don't look like a cap space team anytime soon. Even if they were, star players don't tend to choose Cleveland when searching for a new home in free agency.

The Cavaliers have to upgrade via trade

Those two realities of team-building lead to only one conclusion: if the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to significantly upgrade this team, they will need to do so via trade. Additionally, given those picks owed to Utah, they will need to do so by buying low on a player who is being devalued by his current team.

That leads us to the current trade landscape. There are plenty of intriguing names on the market, from high-octane guards like Zach LaVine to more balanced players such as Pascal Siakam and Dejounte Murray. Role players such as Bruce Brown and Clint Capela can be had. The Cavs will likely do their due diligence and call around the league to determine just who is available.

If they call the Golden State Warriors, it's anyone's guess as to who the 2022 champions will make available in a deal. Are they ready to move Chris Paul's contract to bring back a substantial player? Are they going to give up on Andrew Wiggins? Wash their hands of Draymond Green?

One player that Cleveland should ask about is Jonathan Kuminga. The third-year forward, taken four picks after Evan Mobley in the 2021 NBA Draft, has shown flashes of incredible potential. He is one of the league's most powerful athletes, he can defend multiple positions, and his skill as a scorer has improved both in the paint and as a 3-point shooter.

The problem is that Warriors head coach Steve Kerr still doesn't trust him, and is yanking his minutes all over the place. Kuminga has never played 30 or more minutes in back-to-back games. The Warriors aren't exactly destroying teams with Kuminga in a small role; they are floundering below .500, and still won't see what their dynamic two-way forward could bring in a more prominent role.

Waiting for Kerr and the Warriors to trust him appears to have worn on Kuminga, and this past week it came out that Kuminga had "lost faith" in his head coach after sitting the last 18 minutes of a close loss to the Denver Nuggets. The Warriors are a team that hates the airing of laundry in public and certainly could not have liked that report getting out.

Kuminga could be available at a discount

The Warriors will certainly try to patch things up with Kuminga, and Kerr went one step in that direction by playing Kuminga 36 minutes the following game. Still, relationships are not healed overnight, and if the Warriors decide they want to continue going to war with Andrew Wiggins, Kuminga could be on the trade block.

If so, the Cavaliers should see what it would take to bring the young forward to Cleveland. He could stretch his wings during Mobley's absence over the next month or more, and whether he starts or not after that he would be a prominent player in the rotation at multiple positions. The Cavs don't have a player like him, an elite athlete who brings it on both ends of the court. He could start at the 3 or the 4, and he has developed his skills and shooting enough to fit with nearly any teammates.

Kuminga's situation could mean that he is available at a discount, the kind of discount that will evaporate if he continues to develop, or proves himself in the postseason this year. The Cavaliers would love for that path upwards to happen on their roster.

The Warriors won't give Kuminga up for nothing, public frustration or not. It may be that the Cavs can't simply send a reserve player or two and seconds for Kuminga. Assuming so, they should ask some hard questions about moving Jarrett Allen in a larger deal for Kuminga. Would the Warriors be interested in Caris LeVert? Feeling out the trade market for Kuminga is an important task that could yield some undervalued fruit.

Jonathan Kuminga looks like a player ready to take a major step forward. If there is an avenue to the Cavaliers trading for him, that step forward could take place in Cleveland and could be the upgrade they can't afford to find anywhere else.

dark. Next. Ranking every Cleveland Cavaliers' player by trade likelihood. Ranking every Cleveland Cavaliers' player by trade likelihood